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October 03, 2022

John McMullen: Nick Sirianni's standard has to be bigger than a statue

Eagles NFL
Nick_Sirianni_Eagles_Giants_091922_KateFrese208.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Nick Sirianni

PHILADELPHIA - The sight of Doug Pederson returning to Lincoln Financial Field was always going to spark obvious comparisons with his successor as coach of the Eagles, Nick Sirianni.

Round 1 in that manufactured rivalry went to Sirianni Sunday when the Eagles authored some market corrections to the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars, who came into the game with the best turnover ratio in the NFL at plus-7, along with the No. 1 run defense in the league that was allowing just 55.0 yards per game.

What stood out most in Jacksonville’s 29-21 setback, other than the weather, was Trevor Lawrence’s five turnovers and the 210 yards on the ground the Eagles piled up, led by a career-high of 134 by Miles Sanders.

“Show me a good coach,” Sirianni often says, “and I’ll show you some good players.”

So, the Eagles’ current head coach wasn’t about to spike the football because he beat the Super Bowl-winning Pederson with the better roster.

But the win did get me thinking about the nebulous standard the Eagles have latched onto during the first 4-0 start the franchise has had since 2004.

What struck me most in the exhaustive pre-game hype was the fact that Pederson admitted he’s never taken the time to see “The Philly Special” statute outside of Lincoln Financial Field in person while Sirianni did “pay his respects” to the franchise’s most famous play-call early in his coaching tenure.

Perhaps that’s simply the difference between ambition and accomplishment.

The easy framework for Sirianni and the one he stressed multiple times in the lead-up to the game was expressing his admiration for what Pederson was able to bring to the NovaCare Complex and his hope that he can do the same.

The current head coach explained the Lombardi Trophy in South Philadelphia is something that some great coaches, including a Hall of Famer in Dick Vermeil and a slam-dunk future one in Andy Reid, couldn’t accomplish.

Reid, though, better explains what Sirianni should be aspiring to.

Consistency and shelf life are the ingredients most likely to bring an organization a championship because the more opportunities you have the better chances the stars align.

Brandon Graham recently stated that he believes the 2022 version of the Eagles has more talent than the 2017-18 one, so the championship window is certainly open and made easier by a young quarterback playing at a high level before a different kind of rent is due to Jalen Hurts.

That was also the formula in 2017 when Carson Wentz was in his second season and the injuries hadn’t taken hold yet or coupled with his now accepted stubbornness when it comes to his playing style.

Yet, as talented as this Eagles group is, if it loses its quarterback, starting left tackle, and green dot Mike LB like the 2017 group, getting the XEROX out to copy the previous formula isn’t going to work.

In a more metaphysical sense, working on the stars aligning is a fruitless exercise.

As an analytically driven organization, the Eagles understand better than most that the more at-bats you get mean more opportunities to square one up.

And that’s why the aspiration should be the Reid-like slow and steady burn that didn’t pay off for him until Kansas City vs. “The New Normal” of Pederson that hindsight revealed to be a shooting star.

Maybe when Pederson retires from coaching he will return to Philadelphia and reminisce.

Until then, assembling a monument garishly sponsored by Bud Light immortalizing a mentor (along with Nick Foles) still coaching without giving it time to breathe speaks to our microwave, short-attention-span culture more than a legendary sports moment.

It’s why the Eagles were forced to move the statue to a less prominent position outside the Linc after firing the guy who didn’t take the five minutes to cross the street to see it while he was here.

And it’s why Sirianni shouldn’t waste five minutes of his day thinking about it. The current Eagles’ coach should be striving for a standard much higher than that.

John McMullen is a contributor to and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Sports. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL, and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at Follow John on Twitter here.